Congresswoman Pushes Student Loan Cancellation, But Gets Push Back For High Salary

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

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This congresswoman wants student loans cancelled, but gets push back for her high salary.

Here’s what you need to know.

Student Loans

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) delivered a passionate speech on the House floor about the importance of wide-scale student loan forgiveness. Like other progressives in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tlaib has called on President Joe Biden to cancel up to $50,000 of student loans for student borrowers. (Biden won’t cancel student loans before student loan relief ends). Tlaib shared her own personal struggles with student loan debt while trying to earn an education to live the American Dream. “I worked full time, Monday through Friday,” Tlaib said, “and took weekend classes to get my law degree. And still, close to $200,000 in debt. And I still owe over $70,000, and most of it was interest.” Despite her story of balancing work and school only to be left with significant student loan debt, social media critics were quick to attack the congresswoman over her salary.

Student loan cancellation: social media reactions not positive

As a U.S. congresswoman, Tlaib earns $174,000 annually. This didn’t sit well with some on social media, who implied that student loan forgiveness shouldn’t benefit borrowers who earn $174,000 a year. While Tlaib didn’t explicitly say her own student loans should be cancelled, she implied that wide-scale student loan forgiveness could help borrowers with student loans who are in a similar situation to her. On Twitter, for example, Tlaib faced a backlash from several Twitters users who criticized her comments, salary position on student loan forgiveness. While some Twitter users supported her arguments in favor of wide-scale student loan cancellation, others were not as kind:

“I worked three jobs and graduated with NO debt!! I ate grilled cheese and drank kool-aid and wore old clothes! You don\’t gave to go in debt to get an education. You have to make good choices and sacrifice somethings!” — Jennifer Smith

“My take – Nobody cares – if you took out the loan, you need to pay it back. If you made a bad decision (not happy with [Return on Investment]), not my problem, not govt problem. You make a lot of money in DC – stop complaining.” — BB

“We just had a full year of ZERO interest and no penalties for lack of payment. On top of that, the government just handed us a bunch of cash. That was an amazing opportunity that I took advantage of. I made my last student loan payment yesterday. Stop whining and just pay it back.” — Chris Ford

Student loans: why this congresswoman wouldn’t qualify for student loan forgiveness

When discussing student loan cancellation, most borrowers refer to wide-scale student loan forgiveness as benefitting every student loan borrower. However, Tlaib wouldn’t even qualify for wide-scale student loan forgiveness under the leading proposal in Congress. (Student loan forgiveness won’t be available for everyone, but this plan is available now). Under that proposal, which has been championed by Schumer and Warren, only federal student loan borrowers with an annual income up to $125,000 would be eligible for student loan forgiveness of up to $50,000. (Here’s who qualifies for student loan forgiveness right now). Given her salary, Tlaib would be ineligible for wide-scale student loan forgiveness if Congress passed Schumer and Warren’s plan. Practically, Congress has no plans of passing wide-scale student loan cancellation. If Congress considered wide-scale student loan cancellation, it’s likely that income threshold would be reduced. It would be a hard sell in Congress to let student loan borrowers who earn a six figure salary to get student loan cancellation, while other Americans impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic had an income cap of $75,000. (How to qualify for automatic student loan forgiveness).

Public service loan forgiveness is possible

While wide-scale student loan forgiveness wouldn’t be possible for Tlaib under the leading proposal, Tlaib could qualify for public service loan forgiveness. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is a federal program that Congress created in 2007 to help student loan borrowers get full federal student loan cancellation if they work full-time for a qualified public service or non-profit employer. Tlaib noted that she worked for Legal Aid, and she also is a member of Congress. If Tlaib completes 120 monthly student loan payments as well as other requirements, she could qualify for student loan forgiveness. The U.S. Department of Education announced major changes to student loan forgiveness last month to help more borrowers get student loan relief, including $2 billion in student loans that will be cancelled within weeks. This could help Tlaib count any prior student loan payments that were previously excluded under the old rules of the program. To qualify, Tlaib could complete a limited waiver for student loan forgiveness before October 31, 2022. (How to apply for limited student loan forgiveness).

Student loans: next steps

Tlaib’s arguments about the high cost of getting an education is almost universally shared. College is expensive. Law school is expensive. The squabble, however, is whether the individual who earns the degree should pay those costs through their own personal sacrifice, or whether other Americans who already paid off student loans or didn’t go to college should subsidize your education. It’s unlikely that Biden will enact wide-scale student loan cancellation, and don’t expect Biden to cancel student loans before student loan relief ends on January 31, 2022. That’s why it’s critical for you to develop a game plan for student loan repayment. Start now so you’re prepared in advance of February 1, 2022, when federal student loan payments restart. Here are some popular ways to pay off student loans:

Student Loans: Related Reading

Biden won’t cancel student loans before student loan relief ends

How to qualify for automatic student loan forgiveness

How to apply for limited student loan forgiveness

Education Department will cancel $2 billion of student loans